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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




Coal production for many years was about 2¾ million tons; then in 1953 it dropped to 2½ million for three years before increasing to a record 3 million tons in 1960. The use of coal on the railways and for coastal shipping has been steadily declining and, latterly, coal has been losing ground to oil fuel in industry. This decline has been offset by the increase in the use of coal at Meremere for electricity generation. In 1962, nearly one-seventh of the coal used was for electricity generation, one-fifth was used by householders, one-tenth by gasworks, and one-eighth by dairy factories; the railways used only 7½ per cent. The demand for lump coal remains steady, but for slack coal it is lessening, so that slack-coal dumps are a feature in many districts. Coal production fell by 370,000 tons in 1962; the number of men employed, both in opencast and in underground mines, has therefore decreased. Any substantial fluctuation in the use of coal at Meremere now has a marked effect on the industry. The changing pattern of coal usage, the probable use of natural gas, and the effects of the new oil refinery at Whangarei give the coal industry an uncertain economic future. But it must be remembered that coal at present provides one-third of New Zealand's effective energy needs, with hydro and geothermal electricity and imported oil each providing a third. The importance of coal must not therefore be underrated.